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Kyrgios gets chance to prove he's a contender not just a critic

Australian Open

Nick Kyrgios emerged as a 'voice of sanity' for tennis over the coronavirus pandemic, and the mercurial 25-year-old has a chance to show he can also be a contender on court when he meets Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open third round.

Known for being outspoken, Kyrgios took plenty of pot shots at fellow players for their indiscretions during the global crisis and hurled insults at world number one Novak Djokovic on numerous occasions.

In response, Kyrgios' critics have pointed to the Australian maverick's tantrums on court and his lack of substantial achievements at the game's highest levels.

While Kyrgios' talent is undoubted -- he is among the few players in the world to beat the Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic -- he remains an underachiever at Grand Slams where he has never gone past the quarter-finals.

"I think he's a very talented guy," Djokovic said this week. "He has proven that he has a quality to beat any player really in the world in the past," he said, though he added he had little respect for the Australian off the court.

Kyrgios has improved his "bad boy" image since he kickstarted a campaign that raised millions of dollars for the victims of bushfires that ravaged southern Australia during last year's tournament.

Marked as a tennis prodigy when he first arrived on the circuit as a teenager, Kyrgios would probably accept that he should have achieved more than six ATP titles and a career-high ranking of 13th.

He faces another stern test on Friday in his bid to make it to the second week of a Grand Slam when he meets U.S. Open champion and world number three Thiem, a finalist at Melbourne Park last year.

Kyrgios can be assured of the usual delirious support at his favourite John Cain Arena but it remains to be seen if he has enough left in his tank after Wednesday's emotional five-set win when he rallied to victory after saving two match points.

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